Unwelcome in Washington: Reminders of Limits on Power

eyeglasses and newspaper blue background

Ever since the Tea Party began impacting the national debate, activists have been accused of not respecting the way things work in Washington. At town hall meetings in August 2009, activists were told they were over-the-top in holding elected officials responsible. (Unlike, say, moderate-toned Occupy activists who illegally stayed on private property and engaged in violence with police.) In 2010, it was accusations that The Tea Party didn’t understand establishment moderates in the GOP were actually fiscal conservatives, and in 2011 attempts to prevent massive overspending brought alarmist claims of “brinksmanship.”

All of these accusations – from establishment members of both parties, on Capitol Hill and in various media, as well as the same GOP consultants that care more about profit than the country – can be summarized in these words from Establishment Extraordinaire Rep. John Dingell (D-MI):

[Tea Partiers] don’t know the rules. They don’t know the traditions. They don’t know the customs. They don’t know the mores. They don’t know how to make this place work.

Back in the so-called “good old days,” apparently everyone got along on Capitol Hill. Republicans liked Democrats, and Democrats liked Republicans. They worked together to make sure all sorts of programs that violate both our rights and the Constitution were made into law. Bipartisanship was the word of the day, right up until the day the American people decided the system was too flawed to continue supporting.

Over at The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza and Sean Sullivan are a bit shell-shocked in realizing that fiscal conservatives in the House prefer the attitude of the American people to that of Rep. Dingell when it comes to immigration reform:

Two things have become clear over the past 24 hours: 1. The Senate is going to pass some sort of comprehensive immigration reform bill, and 2. The House doesn’t much care. Welcome to Washington, circa 2013!

Now, these gents and their fellow critics of the House may not realize this, but the House’s reaction is exactly why the Founders created the House and Senate the way they are. First, the House is more reactive to the will of constituents, being elected every two years. Most Americans want border security as the first step to immigration reform, not amnesty

Second, the chambers were not intended to get along for their own sake. They were always designed to push and pull against each other, using the egotism of politicians to balance power, if nothing else.

Third, the House is controlled by the party with less power in Washington. The two-party system has its flaws, but one of its greatest attributes is how parties tend to be at least a partial check on each other. Democrats went after President Bush again and again for overspending, until he was out of office. And Republicans loved throwing cash at public policy issues until President Obama was elected, at which point many became less spend happy.

Finally, the immigration bill is so flawed it shouldn’t even be considered for voting in either chamber. If Washington 2013 is so radically different from the past, it’s because Tea Party-minded Members of the House are telling the establishment leaders in the House they are tired of the “business as usual” of supporting bad legislation simply because it exists. They do this with the support of the American people, even if the media and consultant class don’t like it.

As the immigration debate continues in 2013, it’s important to make sure your elected officials hear your voice. They need to know where you stand on real immigration reform – reform that puts America first, is fiscally responsible, and secures the border.